Labyrinth House By: Mark Rollins

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What would you do if you entered a house that you couldn’t leave?

Bradley Jensen, a young architect on his honeymoon, finds himself facing this very question when he finds a door embedded in a tree on a nature hike with his new wife. On the other side of the door is a mansion, and in the mansion are other people: a man from the 70’s, a former slave, and a young woman from the time of the Salem Witch Trials. They, like Bradley, can’t escape. They can’t open the door that leads to the exit; they can’t break down the walls.

There’s one other person in the mansion, a man none of the others like to talk about. He’s like them, plucked out of the world and placed here in a mansion beyond time. Except he’s dangerous. Deadly. In order to figure out the mystery of his current situation and—hopefully—make it back to his wife, Bradley is going to have to confront this man, as well as something far more dangerous:

The Labyrinth House itself.

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Note from Breaking Books: Upon finishing LABYRINTH HOUSE,  I was compelled to go to Mark Rollins’ Goodreads page and noticed this book seemed to be his first fiction work. I immediately contacted Zharmae Publishing to get in touch with Mark. I wanted to know more! The interview is listed below.

Interview with the Author:

Mark Rollins

  •  How did you formed the idea for this book?
I don’t really remember where I conceived the idea of this show.  Yes, when I originally conceived of The Labyrinth House, it was intended to be a pilot for a television series.  Back then, I was learning how to screenwrite, but I’ve since decided not to go out of my way to write for film and television.  I suppose that I could move to Los Angeles, get another agent, and attempt this, but I just don’t think that I want to do that.
I’d better get back to the book idea.  I have always liked shows where a group of people go from one incredible place to another, and most science-fiction shows like Star Trek, Stargate, Doctor Who, etc. seem to follow this pattern.  However, I decided to go in a direction where the exploration and danger was always indoors, and that was part of the very conflict itself.
Most science fiction is based on a simple principle, and The Labyrinth House is pretty simple: it is about a house that one cannot leave.  It is something that even those who haven’t been in prison can understand.  Everyone has been in this position where you just feel like you can’t leave, but often it is of their own choosing.  Most people will embrace the safety of the now rather than the uncertainty of the future.  In other words, most people are content to live in a comfort zone and never get out of it.  Now imagine if you were stuck there, and you just couldn’t leave.  If this was a prison, and you were justly sentenced, perhaps you would have some comfort in the fact that you deserved it.  In this case, the main character of The Labyrinth House is constantly asking what he did to deserve it.
I think one of the reasons why I ran with this concept was because it would be very inexpensive to do as a TV show.  I’ve discovered that a lot of TV shows occasionally have “bottle episodes” that take place in small cramped quarters, and I always felt that the strength of these episodes was in the writing.  In these episodes, it really is all about the people, and the actors have to be convincing, because we as the audience can’t be distracted by effects or scenery.  In the case of The Labyrinth House, every episode is a “bottle episode” with some effects shots, and it soon becomes all about the people.
I think the idea of a house with puzzles comes straight from CD ROM games.  I love playing Myst and other point-and-click games, and there was something to solving these puzzle games.  Perhaps it is just that with these games, there is always a solution and all you had to do was just find it.  You always felt like a champion when you solved a puzzle, and always felt kind of like a cheater when you looked for hints online or a cheat-book.  Of course, I wrote Bradley so he was a fan of these games, and looked at the Labyrinth House as a puzzle to be solved, because he will lose his sanity if he thinks any other way.
As far as the other characters, I have no idea why how I came up with four characters from different time periods. I also have no idea why I chose those specific time periods.  Why is Joshua a runaway slave?  Why is Miriam an escapee from the Salem Witch Trials?  Why is Harvey a seventies guy?  Why is..I better not ask that.   I guess some exact points of inspiration just can’t be nailed down.
  • What kinds of books do you like to read?
I’m going to be totally honest with you and say that I do not habitually read.  This wasn’t always the case.  In high school, I read a lot of science fiction and comic books.  There was a time where I knew every popular science fiction work, but this was back in the eighties.  Then I went to college and read a lot of books that I would not normally read, and after college, I started reading all kinds of books.
I have no idea what is popular now, unless it’s gone mainstream. Most of my favorite books are non-speculative fiction works like To Kill a Mockingbird, because I think that stories need to focus on the human condition and not the events around them.  Stories have to be character-driven, or there is nothing for the audience to relate to.  Still, I prefer stories that are fantastic or have some speculative element in them.  After all, if I wanted a real-life story, I wouldn’t bother reading.
  • Is this your first work in fiction? and/or what other books have you written or are planning to write in fiction?
This isn’t my first work of fiction.  I have been writing for quite a while.  When I was in high school, I wrote a series of stories about a group of super-heroes, no doubt inspired by all the comic books that I was reading.  In college, I attempted to create a novel series concerning them, but I abandoned this premise.  I have a plan one day to pick up that story, but with a different angle than most super-hero stories.
After college, I started writing small plays that were performed at my church.  It was good practice for my first book that I self-published in 2003.  This was a science-fiction novel that I intended to make into a series.  It is still on sale on Amazon here, and I might attempt a relaunch of it soon.
It was in 2005 where I decided to quit my day job and attempt to be an actual writer.  Much of my works are about tech and gadget related, and I have written for several tech blogs like coolest-gadgets.com.  I currently write for The Gospel Herald, focusing mostly on tech and occasionally Entertainment.
I would like to write a lot more fiction.  In fact, I have some fiction works that have appeared on hubpages, a user-based content site.  For example, there is Dungeon Crackers, a fantasy story that combines the heist genre.  Then there is Superhero Separation, a story about a family of super-heroes who are going through a divorce.  Also, if you are interested in seeing some of my old skits, they are on a YouTube channel called CCF 90s Skits Nostalgia.
  • What is your biggest challenge with writing?
The biggest problem for me as a writer is just making ends meet.  Right now, I’m in a good spot where my finances are concerned, thanks to my steady gig at The Gospel Herald.
I can tell you the most difficult problem that I had writing this book.  I mentioned that this book has supernatural elements, but it is still a human story.  The issue with writing about humans interacting is they have to act in a real manner.  It is too easy to make a character say or do something that helps serve the plot and propel the story along, but life is not like that.  Life is complications, but they often don’t make a good book.  A good writer knows how to keep seemingly everyday actions and make them into a very good story, and I hope that I have done that.
  • Have you been published before? Where can we find you and your writing?
The Labyrinth House is my first royalty-based fiction book.  I’ve already mentioned my stories and my first book in one of the previous questions.  I have written six non-fiction books for a company known as Apress.  Three of them were about Lego, two of them were about marketing Android Applications, and the last was about making the most out of the Kindle Fire tablet from Amazon.
I want to make sure to thank Mark for all his hard work and time he took to answer my questions. You can certainly tell his work is a labor of love.

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My Review

I was sent a review request from The Zharmae Publishing Press for Mark Rollins’ THE LABYRINTH HOUSE.

THE LABYRINTH HOUSE is a suspenseful mystery crafted around the unique premise of a house you cannot leave. One walks in, but is not able to walk back out.

In the hook we meet Bradley, our main character, through a letter he has written for help. He explains his current dilemma of entrapment through a some what confusing and flimsy story entailing his honeymoon. After what seems to endless babbling by our main character, we experience how desperate and meticulous Bradley has become in his effort to escape.

Continuing in first person, we discover he is not alone and his companions, while trapped for centuries, have not aged. As the newest member, Bradley tries to incite new ideas and methods in finding a way to escape. So begins the search for reason in this irrational and mysterious house.

Using eloquent description and creative visuals, Mr. Rollin’s takes the reader through the glorious discovery that the rooms are not merely rooms, but, when mapped, spell ELIMINATE ROOMS. Next, we enter what can only be the most difficult and intricate details of solving the various puzzles surrounding each room.

From a reader perspective, this book is entertaining and thoughtful. A mystical house made entirely of mysterious rooms that seem to serve no other purpose than imprisonment. More impressively, Mr. Rollins illustrates an elaborate system of puzzles (what was sure to be the most difficult part of writing this book) and weaves it with masterful ease. He beautifully illustrates the complex and unique riddles in each room as our hero slowly uncovers the secret behind the Labyrinth House. I could not imagine a grander task! I stand and applaud Mr. Rollins for his success!

Concluding this book, Mr. Rollin’s punishes the reader with an ending that, in kindest terms, can be categorized as a cliff-hanger. However, at least with a cliff-hanger some relief is to be had, but Rollins gives the reader no such satisfaction.

What I truly and ultimately loved about this book was the adventure and description of each puzzle Bradley encountered. Above all, this book expresses imagination and uniqueness of the most entertaining kind. Where I felt this book may have lacked, are the development of its characters and back story. All in all, very clever and wonderful start.

-JL

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